UNC: DPP can bring more charges against Paria managers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition MP Saddam Hosein – File photo

Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein said on Sunday that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) can legally prosecute a manager of Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd for the deaths of four divers sucked into an undersea oil pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre two years ago.

At a briefing at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port of Spain, Hosein said the DPP was not limited by the recommendation of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the tragedy that Paria could be charged with corporate manslaughter but could go further to prosecute an individual manager.

Energy Minister Stuart Young on Friday told the House of Representatives the report will be sent to DPP in reply to a question by Naparima MP Rodney Charles.

The report said there was not a strong enough case to recommend the prosecution of any individual, but the law permits a corporation to be charged with manslaughter.

It said, “There are sufficient grounds to conclude that Paria’s negligence could be characterised as gross negligence and consequently criminal.

“They (the commissioners) recommend that the DPP consider charging Paria with what is commonly known as corporate manslaughter.”

The report did not recommend a corporate manslaughter charge for LMCS, which Paria prevented from pursuing a rescue.

Hosein said any successful corporate manslaughter prosecution would result in Paria being fined, which he scoffed simply amounted to the State paying a fine to the State.

“Where is the justice for the families in that?

“There is no justice because there are warm bodies, persons, who must be held accountable for the tragic deaths of those four divers.”

Hosein said the DPP could bring criminal charges against any member of Paria for their conduct in this matter.

He said while this report can make recommendations, the DPP’s hands were not tied.

The DPP was not bound by the report’s findings or recommendations.

“Under section 90 of the Constitution, the DPP exercises an independent role, (away) from the executive, the Government.”

Hosein, quoting from the Constitution, said, “The Director of Public Prosecutions shall have power in any case in which he considers it proper to do so to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court in respect of any offence against the law of TT.”

He opined, “So while the report may have made this recommendation (corporate manslaughter), it is our respectful view that the DPP is not bound by the recommendations outlined here.

“The DPP can, in fact, according to the Constitution, institute any criminal proceedings against any member of Paria for the conduct in this matter.”

Hosein quoted the report saying one Paria official had to calculate how much air was in the pipelines for the trapped men to breathe while failing to ask official dive teams how soon they could deploy cameras or divers. The official had “closed his mind to any alternatives without even hearing them,” Hosein read aloud.

Hosein remarked, “It also found in the report that members of the (Paria) management prevented LMCS, who had divers who were competent, from conducting any rescue operation.”

He read the report saying that “to recklessly close one’s minds to alternatives carries the hallmark of a serious breach of duty” but fell short of individual criminal liability.

Hosein said, “While the report may find this and recommendations may have come out, the independent power and duty rests within the DPP to determine whether or not criminal charges ought to and can be instituted against any particular individual.”

Hosein complained that last Friday, the Government had laid the report in the House but had not said what the State would do to help the bereaved families.

He urged the Prime Minister to fire Young and the Paria board of directors.

“Heads must roll!” Hosein urged.

Hosein called for Parliament to bring a statute on corporate manslaughter akin to that in the UK rather than reliance on common law.

He said it had hurt his heart that a $15 million report had to tell the Government to show some humanity to the divers’ surviving families.

“You don’t need a commission of enquiry to tell you this. You just need a heart.”

Likewise, he said Paria had shown no compassion to the families.

He lamented that the families had lost their breadwinners and had to survive the past two years without help.

“The families of these divers must get justice.”

Hosein said the report must not collect dust like other commissions of enquiry but the Government must enact its recommendations.

Asked if families could begin a civil lawsuit to seek compensation for the divers’ deaths, he replied, “Yes.”

But he said he had some concerns.

“It should not have to resort to that, where family members will have to spend legal fees to sue the government for something the Government should have done from the beginning in terms of compensation for the families.

“They should not have to spend lengthy periods of time in court, going through that entire ordeal again after you see the family members break down before the commission of enquiry. They will now have to subject themselves to that particular issue, being cross-examined, in order just to get what is due to them.”